Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival’s “Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street”
June 18th, 2012 posted by Kim Lilly
This past Friday night I rounded up my friend Tracey Werner of Blabbermouth Communications and we went to Broadway. The great part about it was we weren’t stuck in hours of traffic, we didn’t have to pay any tolls and best of all, parking was free! That’s because we went to the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival located on the campus of DeSales University, right here in Lehigh Valley. We went to see “Sweeney Todd, The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” which won a Tony Award for Best Musical.
Our night started out on the lawn right outside the entrance doors. At 7 p.m., On the Green at the Shakespeare Café is your chance to experience live Renaissance music complete with tables and chairs for you to bring a picnic and your favorite bottle of wine, or you can purchase artisan sandwiches, fresh fruit parfaits and more from the Shakespeare Café. Tracey and I chose to each bring our own dinners and we shared a bottle of wine while enjoying the sounds and a spectacular evening outside.
We’ve each done separate reviews of the show, although some of our feelings are similar.
Kim’s Point of View:
I have to admit, I’m really not a musical kind of girl, and I’ve never seen the movie or read the book, so I wasn’t really sure what to expect. The first thing that came to mind was, “Oklahoma meets Jason in Friday the 13th.” I couldn’t wait to see how they were going to pull that one off! Well, let me tell you, they pulled it off in a compelling performance that had “Sweeney, Sweeney, Sweeney, Sweeney Todd” in my brain the entire weekend.
The orchestra’s maestro sat right in front of the stage and guided the ensemble to precision. The stage was continually changing with what seemed to be an error-free, effortless team approach. The costumes spoke volumes to the 19th century London setting. The makeup donned that of the thriller of a show it was. And the actors were absolutely compelling. At some points there were over 20 of them on stage singing and performing their hearts out. This happened to be opening night, and I would have to say that it went off without a hitch.
My favorite performance was that of Mrs. Lovett, a local native who’s appeared on Broadway. Her facial expressions combined with her playful antics put the audience in stitches and got everyone standing for an ovation at the close of the show. I actually thought everyone did a superb job, including title role actor William Michals who also has appeared on Broadway. It was nice to see some of the actors who performed in “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” which I had recently seen at the Festival. Kudos to all for making this my new favorite performance since I’ve been attending the Pennsylvania Shakespeare Festival!
Tracey’s Point of View:
To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I was going to like “Sweeney Todd.” I knew that it was a Broadway musical but I’d never seen it performed. My only familiarity with it was the Johnny Depp movie a few years ago and I was surprised by how dark and gory the story was. I’m used to happy, upbeat Broadway musicals, so “Sweeney” threw me off guard.
But after the ensemble launched into “The Ballad of Sweeney Todd” I was hooked! It caught my attention and made me want to know what would happen next … even though I technically already knew.
The highlight of the performance for me was pretty much every scene that Dee Roscioli was in as Mrs. Lovett. As far as I’m concerned she stole the show. She was a good match for leading man William Michals as Sweeney Todd and I thought they played off of each other very well. And I was even more excited to find out afterward that she’s a Lehigh Valley local who grew up in the Easton area. Her song about making “The Worst Pies in London” was very quick, animated and cleverly delivered. And their duet “A Little Priest” had everyone in attendance laughing.
I’m happy to say that this time around I liked “Sweeney Todd” much better than the movie. I think it had to do with seeing it as a live stage performance since the reaction and feedback from the audience really adds to the experience.